The Value of Maths

When it comes to choosing A Level and IB subjects there are many factors to consider, one of which is thinking which combinations of subjects are going to open doors for further study at University. Analysing the subjects that are most sought after by top universities, it is clear that maths tops the list by a considerable margin. There are many reasons for this, and Duc, one of our experienced STEM tutors investigates why maths is seen to be the most facilitating academic subject.

Whether you are considering studying geology, engineering, pharmacy, management, medicine or economics, all of these subjects will require you to have some level of maths and the higher the qualification the better. But why is maths such a key subject and how does it underpin studying such a diverse range of subjects?

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I believe that it is because at its heart, maths is so much more than numbers and calculations; it is based on logic, analysis and intuition, all of which are highly transferrable skills across a range of situations. Mathematics helps us to think analytically and have better reasoning abilities. Analytical and reasoning skills are essential because they help us solve problems and look for solutions and mathematical rigour encourages you to think ‘outside of the box’.

These are critical skills for any of the STEM subjects; I definitely would like to know that the civil engineers building roads and bridges are familiar with mathematical concepts and calculations, such as algebra, calculus and trigonometry; just as I am reassured that medics can calculate the right dose of antibiotics to fight any illness I may succumb to. However, these skills are just as valuable studying law or history or even analysing a work of art. As Fiona, our Head of Education who has a background in Art History, points out, ‘many artists were skilled mathematicians, the ancient Greeks created harmonious buildings and sculptures based on the golden ratio of 1:618 and renaissance artists calculated the laws of perspective to create the illusion of 3 dimensions on a flat canvas’.

Maths is also vital for understanding logical connections between societies and issues that impact populations. For those of us transfixed by the data emerging from the covid case numbers across the world, Florence, a Carfax Science tutor who has studied epidemiology comments “interpreting data and making predictions about the progression of diseases requires excellent statistical and analytical skills. Mathematical modelling of infectious diseases like COVID-19, enable scientists to predict which intervention methods would be best for lowering the reproduction number (R0, an indication of how likely the disease is to spread) and whether mass vaccinations programmes are worth pursuing’. Maths also has a vital role in helping to prevent catastrophes and bringing order to the communities across this planet. This extends to building models governed by complex mathematical equations to predict hurricanes and earthquakes, and plan accordingly to manage and protect populations and infrastructure.

From an anthropological point of view, many of our inherited human qualities are nurtured and developed by mathematics theories such as our spatial awareness, inherently assessing our distance from objects and hazards. Our power of reasoning which helps us makes sense of things and to think logically about a situation involves us in a process of calculated thinking.

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Given maths has such universal applications it is hardly surprising that University admissions Departments prize the subject so highly. The essential values of maths are not only relevant within the subject itself but can be applied well beyond the confines of the maths syllabus.

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